Uprooting Racism


The killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, which has launched countless protests and demonstrations in the U.S. and around the world, has made the conversation about systemic racism unavoidable. Much of the outrage surrounding Floyd’s death, however, is due to the fact that for many this conversation is not at all new. Calls for radical social and political change, such as the renewed and increasingly popular demand to defund police forces, highlight the tragedy of Floyd’s death as yet another representative of entrenched institutional racism, yet another horrific instance of the aggression, violence, and marginalization that Black and Indigenous persons and People of Colour (BIPOC) experience on a daily basis. It has become increasingly difficult as well for non-BIPOC persons to avoid confronting these realities, as the events of the past several weeks have helped to expose the ongoing presence of white supremacy and have forced white persons to address their own privilege and complicity in racist systems. And as a larger society we are seeing many of the familiar assumptions and thought-patterns that have guided our discussions of race and systemic injustice in the past crumble before our eyes: Must protest always be “nonviolent” in order to be legitimate? Is it really necessary to have a militarized police force? Is there a way out of this crisis within our current political systems?

Here at Ground Motive, we want to bring these questions close to home for ourselves as members of the ICS community. As institutions and communities become aware of their participation in systemic racism, we would like to begin by recognizing the need to lament – in a biblical sense – our involvement in the systems that have victimized so many; to listen to the voices that continue to be marginalized and oppressed in our fields of study, academic circles, and communities; and to imagine, together with those voices, ways to effectively dismantle racism within our institution. Authentic engagement in this process entails reflecting on what it means for us to participate in antiracist efforts as Christian scholars and educators, acknowledging that the tradition that supports Christian educational institutions rests (at least in part) on colonialism, marginalization and oppression of minorities, slavery, and many other concrete outworkings of systemic racism. 

It is because of the tainted nature of our tradition that one of our most pressing challenges in engaging with the struggles of BIPOC communities is to look within, to acknowledge, assess, and address the ways in which we have benefited from and continue to perpetuate racism in our scholarly practice. In particular, as we embark on this process of self-examination and deep reflection on our practice, we must acknowledge:

  • Our complicity, as a predominantly (although not exclusively) white and settler community, in systemic and institutional racism, as well as our privilege not to be subject to the oppressions experienced by BIPOC communities

  • Our responsibility to engage in the practice of thoughtful reflection on issues of systemic racism, injustice and marginalization, and to bring these issues to the forefront of our work as scholars

  • Our responsibility to create spaces for equal participation among diverse communities together with members of such communities, and to empower those voices that represent perspectives beyond our own 

  • Our need to join others in dismantling the systems of racism in Canadian society and elsewhere.

As a first step in our self-examination, we have created this Ground Motive series as a space for institutional reflection on the practice of philosophy and its bearings on racial inequality. In an effort to foster internal critical engagement, we will invite faculty, students, and other stakeholders to share their personal reflections on our institutional complicity with systemic racism in our practice. In an attempt to attune our ears to the struggle of BIPOC communities, we will invite people from those communities in the field of philosophy or in the context of Christian education, within and outside the ICS community, to contribute their own reflections. Finally, in an attempt to develop concrete outcomes to our reflections, we will invite some of our community partners who work in equity and diversity advocacy to suggest strategies and tools to translate our discussion into an action plan designed to assess and combat racism within ICS.

We welcome your questions, thoughts, and reactions to these posts, and invite you to engage them with the spirit of respect and openness that has always characterized our learning community. As we struggle together through these issues, we hope to help build a more critically and socially-engaged ICS.

Welcome to this Ground Motive series, Uprooting Racism.

- by Andrew Tebbutt and Héctor Acero Ferrer, Series Editors

Posts in This Series

1. We Christians, or Our Racist Christian World

5. Towards a Philosophy beyond Racism - Series Conclusion

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